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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NCGOP to elderly voters: At least make it so you'll never live to see it.

     The Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius) says he knows his party's marriage equality ban is ultimately pointless but voters should pass it anyway:

          A question and answer session prompted questions on students’ minds, among those issues was the upcoming Amendment One that would constitutionally ban homosexual marriage.
          “It’s a generational issue,” Tillis said. “The data shows right now that you are a generation away from that issue.”
          According to Tillis, researchers have predicted Amendment One will pass with approximately 54 percent, but Tillis, who voted to pass the amendment, believes it won’t remain long.
          “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years,” Tillis said.

     Tillis appears to be relying, at least in part, on predictions by The New York Times's Nate Silver on the likely margin of victory.
     Silver also confirms Tillis's prediction that demographic change will make the effort pointless. In 2009 he published  results of a model he ran showing North Carolina voters will be able to defeat a marriage equality ban by 2019.
     Still trying to undo the damage caused when one of their bloggers ran a photo of the President of the United States in what the author called "gay drag" and with a bucket of KFC between his legs for his opposition to the NC ban, the director of the arch-conservative John Locke Foundation is saying:

          I think amending North Carolina’s constitution to forbid gay and lesbian couples from receiving any future legal recognition, including civil unions, is unwise and unfair. In my opinion the real threat to marriage is not the prospect of gay people getting hitched. It is the reality of straight people too quickly resorting to divorce, or never getting hitched in the first place.

    Hood rightly couches the issue as one in which civility has long since been cast to the winds, and contends supporting the ban doesn't make one a bigot.
    But when you already have a statute on the books that bans marriage equality, piling a constitutional amendment on top of it- one that targets only one group of North Carolinians (even denying them the half-loaf of civil unions) for denial of legal rights everyone else takes for granted; and when the leader of the legislature that championed the measure for this year's primary ballot says he knows it will be repealed within twenty years (well within the life expectancy of the 52 year-old Speaker); and the revelation of the secret plan of the measure's biggest backer, the National Oreganization for Marriage to stir up racial and ethic strife to cause a voter backlash against gay Americans...well, that sort of attitude calls to mind Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion of a similar measure twenty years ago:

          ...We have attempted to reconcile the principle with the reality by stating that, if a law neither burdens a fundamental right nor targets a suspect class, we will uphold the legislative classification so long as it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end. See, e.g., Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. ___, ___ (1993) (slip op., at 6).
          Amendment 2 fails, indeed defies, even this conventional inquiry. First, the amendment has the peculiar property of imposing a broad and undifferentiated disability on a single named group, an exceptional and, as we shall explain, invalid form of legislation. Second, its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.
          Taking the first point, even in the ordinary equal protection case calling for the most deferential of standards, we insist on knowing the relation between the classification adopted and the object to be attained. The search for the link between classification and objective gives substance to the Equal Protection Clause; it provides guidance and discipline for the legislature, which is entitled to know what sorts of laws it can pass; and it marks the limits of our own authority. In the ordinary case, a law will be sustained if it can be said to advance a legitimate government interest, even if the law seems unwise or works to the disadvantage of a particular group, or if the rationale for it seems tenuous. See New Orleans v. Dukes, 427 U.S. 297 (1976) (tourism benefits justified classification favoring pushcart vendors of certain longevity); Williamson v. Lee Optical of Okla., Inc., 348 U.S. 483 (1955) (assumed health concerns justified law favoring optometrists over opticians); Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York, 336 U.S. 106 (1949) (potential traffic hazards justified exemption of vehicles advertising the owner's products from general advertising ban); Kotch v. Board of River Port Pilot Comm'rs for Port of New Orleans, 330 U.S. 552 (1947) (licensing scheme that disfavored persons unrelated to current river boat pilots justified by possible efficiency and safety benefits of a closely knit pilotage system). The laws challenged in the cases just cited were narrow enough in scope and grounded in a sufficient factual context for us to ascertain that there existed some relation between the classification and the purpose it served. By requiring that the classification bear a rational relationship to an independent and legitimate legislative end, we ensure that classifications are not drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law. See United States Railroad Retirement Bd. v. Fritz, 449 U.S. 166, 181 (1980) (STEVENS, J., concurring) (“If the adverse impact on the disfavored class is an apparent aim of the legislature, its impartiality would be suspect.”).
          Amendment 2 confounds this normal process of judicial review. It is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence. The absence of precedent for Amendment 2 is itself instructive; “[d]iscriminations of an unusual character especially suggest careful consideration to determine whether they are obnoxious to the constitutional provision.” Louisville Gas & Elec. Co. v. Coleman, 277 U.S. 32, 37-38 (1928).
          It is not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort. Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance. “‘Equal protection of the laws is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities.'” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 635 (1950) (quoting Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 22 (1948)). Respect for this principle explains why laws singling out a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status or general hardships are rare. A law declaring that in general it shall be more difficult for one group of citizens than for all others to seek aid from the government is itself a denial of equal protection of the laws in the most literal sense. “The guaranty of 'equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws.'” Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942) (quoting Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 369 (1886)).

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